Listening To Lisinia

J and I are back up at the cabin for a couple of days. Our excuse this time is that the worms need to be fed and watered and there are still some parsnips waiting to be pulled. Despite the cold we are always glad to be here – there is something special about this place.

I’m not going to bore you by groaning on about it, but getting about has been something of an expletive deleted lately due to creaky joints. J, on the other hand, continues to stride about the mountains and forests like a female version of Tom Bombadil!  

In the past I’ve found that a cream made from juniper oil and produced organically at the Lisinia Project near the village of Karakent beside Burdur Lake (about an hours drive from the cabin) has given relief.   Lisinia is an amazing place and a splendid source of all sorts of pure products that are not going to poison your system with nasty chemicals and additives. We call by regularly and always try and take any visiting family and friends there.

Last time local-born artist Durul Bakan was in the process of creating an amazing eagle from twigs of juniper. This time the creation was in place along with another of his works. They are a sight to behold!

The Lisinia Project is the life’s work of veterinarian Öztürk Sarıca. Here sick and wounded wildlife are treated and whenever possible  returned back to the wild. Those too damaged stay here and although often they are a sad sight they are loved and serve as an education for visitors.

Dances with wolves – Öztürk Sarıca and much-loved inmates

Öztürk’s interest in producing a range of pure, organic products stems from his research into why he lost many members of his family to cancer. He realised that there was a very strong connection between additives, chemicals, artificial fertilisers, you name it, used in much of the industrial farming that goes on in Turkey and around the world. Using locally grown organic ingredients from lavender to juniper to marjoram to sage to thyme to . . . this tiny facility helps us fight back against a tidal wave of adulterated commercial ‘poison’.

There is no entrance fee and the project does not accept donations from anybody. It is self-supporting by selling its pure, natural products to visitors.

The site is also an open-air art gallery, education facility and photographers’ delight.

. . . and there is so much more! I urge you, if you are near Burdur, to make time to visit and support this truly amazing and inspirational project.

Alan – looking for an organic knee replacement!!

J Is For Juniper

J is nothing if not resourceful. She was rather envious when, as regular readers might recall, I was able to slash my booze bill by about 80% by mixing my own rakı. I know she was envious because I saw the green flashes of Sauron behind her beautiful grey eyes!

Anyway, not to be outdone she began her research into the quaintly named ‘botanicals’ that give various gins their unique flavours. Her position was that if all it took was some aniseed essence to flavour my rakı then a similar principle should apply to ‘making’ gin. She was not wrong.

This being Turkey with its amazingly varied climate and geography sourcing the herbs and/or spices she’d need would be easy.  She collected juniper berries which are essential, coriander seeds and prepared some candied orange and lemon peel – candied to supply a little sugar.

juniper in the wild 

and fit for purpose

coriander seeds – you may wish to crack them to better release the flavour

citrus peel steeped in sugar water and awaiting  oven drying

Once these ingredients were ready she half-inched one of my bottles of ethanol. She then steeped the ‘botanicals’ in boiling water for 24 hours before making the quantity up to the same ratio I use for rakı (1.25:1), by adding the ethyl alcohol. The whole is then left to develop for a number of days. J advocates testing every few hours by sniffing and tasting (of course) until you have the intensity you desire. Then she drained the liquid through a sieve to remove the debris and bottled the resulting spirit.

I have to tell you her stuff is the business! She keeps it in a fancy gin bottle to impress any visitors unlike my rakı which is chugged out of what amounts to a milk bottle!

not Hendrick’s but the ‘Real McKöy’  (bit of an ‘in’ joke – sorry)

Truth to tell, using the ethyl alcohol which is freely available here in Turkey you can have all sorts of fun experimenting with different ‘botanicals’. Pretty much anything goes so why not give it a go. Here’s a chart that will help you choose the flavour you seek.

You can check out the kit and process I use for rakı here

Happy Daze, A&J

Life’s Like That!

Some days are good – and some are not so good! Last week we had a day that was not so good and it began at the hospital where we both had an appointment for eye tests. Now, we are paid up contributors to the state health-care system so when we booked in we had no thoughts of any glitches.

They breezed through doing the admin on J and then it was my turn – we both paled as we heard the dreaded word ‘Borç’! The system was throwing up that I had a debt, some unpaid contribution. We knew we had no debt and we had receipts going back four years to prove it but they were at home and you can’t argue with a computer. There was much huffing and puffing and attempts by staff to sort the matter over the phone – brick-wall!

So, before heading home for the receipts we decided to go to our bank and cash one of those Moneygram things that a friend in the UK had sent. Everything went swimmingly until I handed over my id card – Oh, dear! The Moneygram was addressed to Alan Fenn and my id said Alan Richard Fenn. There was no way we could possibly be the same person unless the sender changed the bloody thing to my full name! Another thing to do back home.

The second item on the agenda at the bank was to arrange for four insurance policies to all be paid in one hit as opposed to instalments which the bank was insisting could only be paid from a separate account in my name. Now I won’t bore you with details apart from saying that everything from homes to cars to bank accounts to you-name-it is in our joint names so why do we need another account in my name and why won’t they just take all the premiums in one go?  – these things can be utterly incomprehensible! Eventually the bank agreed – reluctantly -that they would let us pay in one hit. Before you mark that up as a win, just hold your horses.

I try to keep this image in mind when times are trying

We sighed, took several deep breaths and headed home. The Moneygram thing was sorted in minutes (may the gods bless social media and those who are always on it). We gathered up our receipts and headed back to town and the local social security offices. ‘Hallelujah!’ They were waiting for us and had already sorted the glitch and everything was in order. The sun had just come out on our day!

At the bank the Moneygram thing went well until the clerk said to me, eyes downcast, that the sender’s name I’d filled in was wrong. ‘It’s not Mister Frank’ he whispered. As my blood pressure surged to 160/90 and I snarled ‘Jean?’ he rapidly began redacting/editing the form muttering ‘Yes, Mister Jean!’ A few minutes later we had the cash.

Now, as we were in town, it was back to hospital to see if the eye doctor could fit us both in – she could. In no time we had our new prescriptions but were too knackered to do any more than head home and get the coffee pot on. We had had enough for one day.

Over coffee and a comfort bun I perused my prescription – it didn’t look complete so I dug out an old one and sure enough I appeared to have enjoyed a near miraculous improvement in my vision including self-correcting astigmatisms! Next morning it was back to the eye doctor and a retest that reversed the earlier miracle!

We allowed a couple of days to pass before returning to town to see the optician and the bank. The optician was a treat to deal with as we sailed smoothly through the process of lens and frame selection. The 30% discounts (which we know are a sales gimmick) made us even more mellow. Then it was to the bank and again it all went swimmingly. The ‘one-payment option’ was no problem we were assured. J asserted her right as joint account holder to sign whatever needed to be signed. I remember smiling behind my hand as the bank asserted its right to do things its own way and page after monthly page spewed out of the printer. They would take the money in one instalment but only after she had signed for each individual monthly payment! Sometimes life is like that!

A&J cocooned in isolation up in the mountains where life is simple and uncomplicated – mostly!

Not Much Ado About Nothing

Well, here we are again slumming it up here near the clouds. We knew there wasn’t really much to do apart from plant a few broad beans, earth up the leeks, check on the well-being of the worms and generally ensure all was well.

We arrived to a sparklingly crisp, cool, clear day and a near freezing cabin! Get that soba going and warm the place up.

Meanwhile, J was busy earthing up the leeks, posing for a photo op and cooing to the worms which were doing very nicely in their insulated home. The minus temperatures had once again ‘popped’ the garden watering system so we needed to call out our plumbing neighbour to get that sorted. He’s stopped the leaks and will come at some time soon to fix us up with a stop-cock underground so we can shut the system down and avoid this in the future.

‘And what about you?’ I hear you ask – well, there is always something for this multi-skilled Jack-of-all-trades (you know the rest!) to be getting on with. This time it was the main door. You know about the beautiful old doors we acquired and had fitted – they look splendid and we love the look and the feel of them. The one at the main/only entrance was showing its age and sagging a lot. Various remedial efforts had failed to solve the sag and so I’d made a couple of ‘L’ brackets to overcome the problem. Spray-painted ‘antique gold’ (all I had available) they are fitted, look good and, so far, seem to have done the job.

So, jobs are jobbed and all that remains is to relax, idle away a couple of days reading, writing and Scrabbling mixed up with a few episodes of MASH, a couple of home-made Rakıs and enjoy keeping Jack Frost away with a nice, warm soba.

Jack Frost nibbling at your hose – Brrrrrr!

A&J taking great pleasure in small things.

For Your Delectation

There are few things that give greater pleasure, in my opinion, than the feel and smell of a good book or the taste and smell of fine food. Especially Turkish food! Add to that pleasurable mix a fabulous volume of recipes from probably the finest exponent of bringing Turkish food, especially southern Turkish food, to the table and you have a truly palatable combination.

Archers does not, as a rule, do promotional stuff. I’m going to break that rule for the very best of reasons. Özlem Warren is an internationally reknowned culinary master of her craft. She is also one of the nicest people it’s been my pleasure to meet and know. If you are not already using her recipes from her superb blog  then you  really are missing out and should click the link and get acquainted asap.

Now she is presenting a cookery book in hardback of such oustanding quality that it deserves a place in every kitchen and, for the wonderful photographs alone, on every coffee table. This is a ‘must have’!

the lady herself – a great ambassador for Turkish cuisine

So, you lucky people, here’s your chance to get your copy of this volume of Turkish Delights. Act quickly and pre-order now for delivery in early April 2018 and you get a hefty 10% discount. Now that is just too good to miss! So, click this link right here!

Alan